Love Is All Around: Kathy Remembers Romana Kryzanowska

It’s been almost eight months since the Pilates world, and the world at large, saw a brilliant light fade out in the passage of Romana Kryzanowska. She’s admired by Pilates instructors across the globe for her unwavering devotion to the Pilates method, which she studied under Joseph Pilates himself, becoming a champion of the fitness system after his death.

Over the course of decades, Romana taught countless clients; at the same time, she mentored and passed the classical Pilates legacy to hundreds of apprentices, many of whom have gone on to become the top Pilates instructors in the world. As the owner of Dynamic Fitness, Sarasota’s original Pilates studio, I feel incredibly blessed to be a member of a generation of Pilates instructors who trained and obtained our certification under Romana.

I clearly remember that day in 1996 when I first walked into Drago’s Gym, the studio where Romana worked tirelessly to preserve the authentic, classical Pilates method. One end of the studio was full of aspiring gymnasts and circus artists who shared the studio, flying around in the air on trapeze swings and parallel bars. The reformers and other equipment originally designed by Joe Pilates stood in the middle of the studio. Where I’d expected a solemn temple to the revered fitness method, I entered an atmosphere of controlled chaos and vibrant energy.

Romana was definitely the wellspring of that energy. An abundantly giving instructor, she was like a mother to the apprentices, pushing us hard to become the most competent, knowledgeable, and safety-minded teachers of the system she loved like life itself. Romana’s true love of the work and her connection to Joe Pilates was apparent in everything she did.

Romana was the embodiment of pure joie de vivre, and she taught us to play hard as well as work hard. When one of us made a big breakthrough, like performing our first teaser on the reformer, Romana would cry, “Caramba! Champagne!” And then the whole studio would toast a glass of sparkling wine.

Indeed, there was nothing clinical about the way Romana taught Pilates. Her imagery had nothing to do with anatomy, but more with movement. Romana was a ballerina by training, and it was like she danced with the people she taught. With her intuitive way about teaching and about people, Romana could look at a body in front of her and know the right thing to do with that person. She painted pictures with her cues and helped each student find his or her own way through an exercise.

Romana didn’t just teach the Pilates method, but she taught her great love for it as well. I believe that’s the reason why Pilates is so alive and strong today: Nobody else had the charisma to pass it to the next generation with so much passion. Nobody else could fuel it the way she did.

At her memorial service in New York, hundreds of Romana’s former students (now instructors) packed inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, some traveling from as far away as Australia to celebrate Romana’s life and her memory. The last eulogist ended his commemoration with a question: “What did Romana always say?”

Every single person in the church responded instantly: “Love is all around!” we shouted. That was Romana’s mantra. You felt it when you were with her, and we certainly felt it at that moment. We are lucky — the ones who worked with her, she left a little bit of her spirit with us. I feel she speaks through me sometimes in certain teaching moments in the studio. It gives me great joy every day to pass on her powerful insight, her compassion for students, and her zeal for classical Pilates.

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Exercising for Two: Prenatal Pilates A major theme that runs throughout our blog posts is: Pilates is good for everybody! You might think that's just a matter of opinion until, like our instructors, you see firsthand the broad spectrum of bodies we get to work with on a daily basis. Pilates is built to accommodate, which makes Pilates an ideal workout for people with special needs. One of the "special-est" of these needs is the dramatically changing figure that comes with pregnancy.The majority of Pilates exercises are low-impact, and pose no problems to an expecting mother during the first trimester of pregnancy. In fact, this is an excellent time to practice Pilates. So many women complain of lower back pain as the belly blossoms and the weight of the growing fetus puts stress on the natural curvature of the spine. Pilates is famous for its emphasis on a strong core, and a well-developed powerhouse (from the top of the abs to bottom of the pelvis) will work to counterbalance the baby weight, keeping the spine in alignment.Once the first trimester has passed, however, it quickly becomes impossible for a woman to lie on her stomach -- say "see ya later" to swan exercises on the barrel, or long box exercises on the reformer! Doctors also recommend that women not lie on their backs for extended periods during the second and third trimesters, as this position restricts blood flow from the heart to the lower body. This can result in lightheadedness and numbness in mom, and oxygen deprivation in baby.Remember, Joseph Pilates designed a fitness system that brilliantly adapts to unique bodies. Pilates exercises later in pregnancy are geared toward keeping the spine in alignment and strengthening the pelvic floor -- no reformer necessary. Many of the classic "moves" can be modified to safe positions, such as sitting upright, kneeling, or lying on one's side.Pilates effectively prepares the body to handle major physical changes, but the benefits carry through to the moment the baby is born. Practice in breath control, concentration, and active mind-body awareness will all prove enormously helpful during labor. And thanks to that enhanced mind-body connection, a new mom will find herself able to "bounce back" quickly after her baby is born -- more on that in an article next month!Pilates can be a gentle and still a serious fitness system. At Dynamic Fitness, we do not permit expecting mothers to begin a Pilates routine if they have never studied Pilates before. And as with any form of exercise, we always recommend our pregnant trainees to consult with their healthcare providers before they pursue a Pilates regimen during pregnancy. That said, expecting mothers who have a grasp of Pilates fundamentals are warmly invited to continue training at Dynamic Fitness, guided by the expertise of our certified instructors. Feel free to call us at the studio for a consultation on Pilates exercise during pregnancy.#LivingBetterWithPilates: Dynamic Fitness Invites You to Share Your Story Do you know why Joseph Pilates created his revolutionary fitness system more than seven decades ago? It wasn't to transform Pilates students into Olympic athletes. It wasn't to start a new exercise fad. It wasn't even to make Joe rich and famous! The Pilates system was developed to help you live better in your body. Whatever it is you love to do, you do it better thanks to training in Pilates.At Dynamic Fitness, we believe classical Pilates is the most widely accessible and effective path to physical fitness and integrated wellbeing. It is our instructors' greatest joy to see each client progress on their individual journey to, as Joe said, "the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit." In the Dynamic Fitness blog we've discussed and shared at length the benefits of classical Pilates training. But now we want to hear from you, our Dynamic Fitness family: How has Pilates helped you live better in your body?  Do you notice differences in how your body feels in everyday activities?Have you felt changes in your energy or stamina?Has Pilates helped you recondition an injury or physical impediment? ... And how about that breathing?We warmly invite you to share your stories of living better in your body through Pilates in the following ways. Post it to the Dynamic Fitness Facebook page:  fun on Facebook and Twitter with a hashtag: #LivingBetterWithPilatesSend it in a letter! Click this link to e-mail us:  would love to feature your stories in the Dynamic Fitness blog (with your permission, of course), and hope to continue to show the world the many ways of living better with Pilates.